Spelling is a complex aspect of literacy that needs to be taught explicitly and systematically. Students at the Foundation stage use phonics and their beginning phonemic awareness to identify sounds in words and to understand that sounds are represented by letters in written words.


Explicit teaching

Spelling at the Foundation stage relies on phonics to make the connection between sounds and letters. Students at the Foundation stage need to recognise the letters and common sounds of the alphabet as well as understand that words are made up of sounds.

In order to spell, students should be taught to vocalise words and spell words phonetically (as they sound) using their letter sound knowledge. For example, a student in Kindergarten might spell ‘caught’ as ‘cort’.

Teach students:

  • to recognise the most common sounds made by each letter of the alphabet, including consonants and short vowel sounds and the most common blends e.g. ‘th’, ‘sh’, ‘ch’, etc.
  • to write consonant-vowel-consonant (cvc) words by writing letters to represent the sounds in the spoken words e.g. ‘can’, ‘sit’, ‘had’, etc.
  • to write down spoken words by listening to the sounds heard in the word and then writing letters to represent those sounds.
  • to identify and spell some familiar sight words e.g. ‘the’, ‘my’, etc.

General strategies

At the beginning of the Foundation year, students need to be explicitly taught the letters and common letter sounds of the alphabet. Engage students with regular learning experiences to consolidate phonological knowledge and develop phonemic awareness.

Teachers should explicitly model hearing individual sounds in spoken words (phoneme awareness), rhyming, segmenting, blending and manipulating individual sounds in spoken language. Guide students to use these strategies when writing and reading in a range of learning areas.

In Kindergarten students may have limited print literacy and EAL/D students’ language backgrounds may not feature the same sounds as the English alphabet. Do not rely on prompts such as: ‘Sound it out’. Teach students to listen for sounds as you say the word normally, elongate the word or chunk syllables. Try to avoid added emphasis to individual sounds… e.g. saying ‘meh’, ‘ma’ or ‘um’ for ‘m’.

Activities to support the strategy

Activity 1: letter sound bingo

This sound segmenting activity reinforces students’ phonics knowledge and supports phonemic awareness.

It can be done in a whole class or small group context.

  • Group or pair students and provide letter bingo boards and counters.
  • To ensure this is a learning experience, begin by modelling a few examples.
  • Have a practise round and share/monitor answers after each round.
  • Say a word and ask students to listen for the onset sound (the first sound), e.g. moon = m/oon
  • Students need to identify the onset sound and then look on their bingo board for the letter that represents that sound, e.g. moon = look for ‘m’
  • If students have the letter they cover it with a counter.
  • Play until a group has ‘bingo’ – a full row (or the full board) covered.
  • Variation: Students can work individually on their own bingo board.
  • Variation: Ask students to listen for the final sound in the words, e.g. moon moo/n.
  • Extension: following the bingo activity students try to think of other words that use the letters on their board as onset sounds (or final sounds) and vocalise these words to try to spell them in their groups.

Activity 2: word champions

This exercise can be a whole lesson, a regular literacy activity, a lesson break or writing warm-up to support students’ familiarity with building words using letter sounds.

  • Provide a bank of letters.
  • Remind students about vocalising words to hear the sounds.
  • Group students and provide paper or use a template (see example).

  • Students write as many words as they can using the bank of letters (letters can be re-used in new words).
  • The group with the most words (correct) are declared the word champions.
  • Variation: Students attempt to complete this activity in pairs or individually once they are familiar with it.
  • Extension: Students attempt to use their identified words in sentences.


Australian curriculum

ACELA1758: Expressing and developing ideas: Know that spoken sounds and words can be written down using letters of the alphabet and how to write some high-frequency sight words and known words.

NSW syllabus

ENe-2A: Outcome 2: composes simple texts to convey an idea or message (ENe-2A) - Understand and apply knowledge of language forms and features: know that spoken sounds and words can be written down using letters of the alphabet and how to write some high-frequency sight words and known words.

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